March 3, 2011


The joys of watching cricket on HD

Sambit Bal
Kevin O'Brien is a new Irish hero after his stunning century overcame England, England v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 2, 2011
The ad-free HD broadcast made the World Cup's most joyous day even more enjoyable  © Getty Images

Ireland and Kevin O'Brien provided the World Cup its most joyous day yet, and while I would have loved to be at the ground, I had the next best viewing option available. My HD (high-definition) set-top box had arrived the day before, and what a joy it was to watch the crystal-clear pictures on wide screen - and, would you believe it, without a single ad.

As the match went on - and even though there were periods during England's innings when it was a one-way street, the clean feed kept me engaged - it became apparent how much of the game the India television viewer misses out on. You watched batsmen walk off the pitch after being dismissed. Alex Cusack went stoically, betraying no emotion. O'Brien went to a hero's ovation, but you could see the mixed emotions as he acknowledged the cheers; he had played the innings of his life but the job wasn't over yet, and indeed it could go all wrong from there.

You also saw captains setting the field; batting partners having a chat; there were a few more graphics; and you heard commentators discuss a wicket after it has just fallen and, on other occasions, you heard them making small talk. And often, between the overs, the camera just lingered on the stands, going into the viewing balconies, and sometimes hanging idly over the field. Cricket is a contemplative game with lots of pauses, and it was nice for a change to feel those pauses as a television viewer.

A few weeks ago, we devoted an entire Timeout show to the awfulness of the television experience for the Indian fan. The coverage of the World Cup so far has been far better - less ads, better commentary - but given the cost of rights, and that the cable industry isn't the most transparent, it is unrealistic to expect the kind of broadcast available in England or Australia. The takeaway from the discussion was that, at the very least, the consumer needed to be given another option, and that option given, he should be prepared to pay.

That option is available during the World Cup. The HD feed is more expensive to produce and uplink, but DTH operators can make this worthwhile by paying for this feed, and then it's down to the subscriber to embrace the concept. If you are a cricket fan, it is worth every rupee.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Keywords: Broadcasting

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Posted by Lowrey on (July 27, 2011, 9:52 GMT)

Wow. This is the first time I have seen anyone say outright what I've have long thought about cricket coverage on TV.

Admittedly SkySports coverage is very good in HD (UK) and they use their adverts sparingly. Which is very good considering the viewer subscribes to view the channels.

In contrast, particularly the Asian channels bombard the viewer with adverts every over, every wicket, drinks break and even when a batsman has a change of gloves. Often, I don't even bother watching because it truly causes mental pain watching the cricket through it.

Cricket is very atmospheric, similar to Snooker, the secret of the game is the viewer being engrossed in the game. The 'situation' as it were. To fill gaps where balls are not being bowled with advertisment, breaks the connection between the game and the viewer - and so the situation and the viewer. And viewing becomes superficial - 'waiting for something obvious to happen'. The game gets robbed of the beauty at the highest level.

Posted by Live IPL Score on (March 7, 2011, 4:06 GMT)

Thank you for your take on High Definition set-top box

Posted by cricfan1 on (March 4, 2011, 22:34 GMT)

I am watching in USA on my 67" HD TV and it's like you there on ground and to watch any close finish match it's owesome.

Posted by sudeep das on (March 4, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

Actually I started with the soccer world cup 2010. The hi-res picture is worth the price. By the way it is cheaper here in India compared to that in Dubai, for example. When will they launch the 3d service? Just can't wait for it.

Posted by Danish on (March 4, 2011, 2:45 GMT)

Can you kindly tell us which one do you subscribe to?

Posted by Ananth on (March 3, 2011, 12:24 GMT)

I definetely agree. After lot of debates, I bought this HD set-top box with all objections but now my parents love it. It is so nice to see batsmen celebrating and bowlers rampant on the ground.Commentators words adds to the joy.It's worth every ruppee I had spent.

Posted by jeremy on (March 3, 2011, 12:14 GMT)

Agreed. Its a world apart. Been enjoying it in south africa too

Posted by Mohan on (March 3, 2011, 11:45 GMT)

The other day, my daughters were already discussing whether Vodafone will run the zoozoos ad or the pug ad during the IPL this year. They will kill me if I tell them it will be neither and they will have to listen to the crowd noise in between overs.

I am planning to get HD (for Nat Geo, Animal Planet etc) but I hope the option of watching cricket with ads will remain even on HD.

Posted by KC on (March 3, 2011, 11:30 GMT)

he madness started with T20. Since there was not enough time before the next batsman came in, they started inserting more ads. Now we have come to a state where even in tests we don't get a single replay immediately after a wicket falls. You will not see how much the guy scored or the stats of the new man. Instead we get stupid messages about insurance you don't need, cars you don't drive and creames you are not sure where to apply. And don't even get me started on the new "innovation" where the very ground splits open and a mobile phone comes out. That experience has cured me of the urge to watch cricket.

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Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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